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Mar 30 2016

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Bathroom Tips for Remodeling on a Budget

Image from phasinphoto, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image from phasinphoto, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sure, bathroom remodeling is easy if your clients have a big budget – just rip out everything and start over. But what’s a person to do if they have limited funds and a bathroom that is in dire need of a facelift? There are several highly effective, low-cost changes you can make for them that can produce impressive results.

Here are some suggestions listed from least costly to most costly – some obvious and some not-so-obvious:

1. Simple Upgrades. The least expensive bathroom remodeling upgrade is to change the cabinet hardware and accessories, including towel and grab bars. Although these are small items, they say a lot about the condition of the bathroom – especially if they are broken or missing. Be sure to coordinate the color and finish with the faucet and shower fixtures for the best look. Unless you are also changing their cabinets, you will need to pick cabinet hardware that matches the screw holes of the old hardware to avoid having to patch old holes.

2. It’s All in the Paint. Next in order of cost is paint. This may be the single-most effective thing to change when doing a bathroom remodel on a budget. A fresh coat of paint in a new, and uplifting color can make a huge difference in a bathroom. But no matter what your client’s budget is, please don’t go too cheap on the quality. Low-quality paint is a waste of time and money. You want to use a paint that is durable, washable and covers well. I usually advise my clients away from glossy paints because they will show every blemish on the surface, and they are impossible to touch up. If you need to touch up a spot, you will be doomed to recoat the entire wall to get it to look right.

Image from Suriya Kankliang, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image from Suriya Kankliang, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3. Fixture Perfect. If you’re changing the cabinet hardware during a renovation, you might want to change those plumbing fixtures too. The faucets are the easiest to change and can have a dramatic aesthetic effect on a bathroom remodel. Select faucets that fit in the holes you already have in the countertop; they aren’t all the same. Some have one hole, some have three holes, and the holes might be spaced differently for different faucets.

4. Toilet Tips. For a few hundred dollars more, you can replace your client’s toilet. This is the fixture that gets the most use and can look the worst. Consider a comfort-height model, which are becoming more and more popular. Never get a round-bowl toilet unless nothing else fits in the room – those look cheap and are uncomfortable to use. Always choose the elongated-bowl variety for more comfort and style.

Image from Sira Anamwong, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image from Sira Anamwong, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5. Vanity Vanity. Replacing the vanity can be a bit more costly and may not fit into a bathroom remodel on a tight budget. Sometimes it’s possible to just change the doors on existing cabinets, but often the cabinet needs more repair. The drawers may not work right, or the hinges are shot. However, if the cabinet is functionally sound, replacing it just to change the look may not be worth the cost. Try cleaning it up and possibly painting it with a good alkyd (oil-based) paint to get a hard, smooth finish that’s almost as good as a factory finish.

6. Counters and Sinks. Going further, you might think about replacing the countertop and the sink, which will be the lesser cost of the two. A simple oval, undermount sink is less than $100. Solid countertop surfaces like granite and quartz are expensive, however, the countertop in a bathroom is not nearly as large as in a kitchen. Since these products are sold by the square foot, a new top might just fit into your client’s budget. Try looking through the off-cuts or remnants at a stone countertop company. These are leftover pieces cut from large slabs used for bigger projects. Chances are you can find a piece that will fit your client’s bathroom and come at a discount of up to 20 percent.

Image from Keerati, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image from Keerati, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cultured marble is a less costly countertop and sink replacement option. This is a synthetic stone-like material that is made with the sink bowl molded right in, and there are more color options than in the past. They are custom made to easily fit even an irregular-shaped top.

If you do all of the things listed here, you would still qualify as doing a bathroom remodeling project on a budget. And the aesthetic effect and your client’s enjoyment will be dramatic.

– William Hirsch is the author of Designing Your Perfect House (www.designingyourperfecthouse.com) and is a member of the American Institute of Architects. He is the former president of the Delaware Society of Architects and is a member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

Jan 25 2016

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Kitchen Design Contest Winners and Forecast Results Announced

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From left to right: Suk, Otten, Quinn and Secter

Sub-Zero and Wolf recently revealed the results of their anticipated 2016 Kitchen Design Forecast. The event – Design Pros Call It – was recently held at the company’s Manhattan showroom and featured renowned designer Matthew Quinn, as well as the three first place winners of its 2013-14 Kitchen Design Contest.

The contest consisted of 53 regional winners and eight global winners, all of whom were polled on trends in kitchen design, appliances, materials, the role of the kitchen and kitchen “must-haves.”

Quinn, a previous Kitchen Design Contest winner, served as one of seven judges in the contest in which the three first place winners were William Suk (traditional), Mikal Otten (transitional) and Dovide Secter (contemporary).

When he first sits down with a client, Quinn says he most often takes the 50/50 design approach, which means a 50 percent focus on art and aesthetics and 50 percent on the science of living. The science aspect begins immediately by asking questions like where do they shop and what do they cook. He takes the time to be present and observe actual meals, particularly breakfast and dinner, which allows him to observe such things as food preparation and traffic congestion.


One anecdote he shared was a client who had a tradition of lighting a single candle every night at dinner, which naturally kept electronic devices away from the table. It was a ritual that was clearly important to his client, so Quinn designed a small glass-encased area to showcase the candle.

“The kitchen is often thought of as the hard space of the home with all its hard surfaces,” he said. “We want to bring softness to it.”

All three contest winners and Quinn agreed that one of the primary roles of a kitchen design professional is to help make the client’s life easier and their time in the kitchen more efficient.

“Time is a great luxury. I do everything I can to help clients save time,” said Quinn. “A good designer can save a family 10 minutes every day, which equals up to 61 hours per year. It’s real numbers like these that get people excited.”

Poll Results: What’s In and Out

Quinn discussed a litany of key items derived from the poll of the 53 winners, including the following:

  • – Seven of 10 designers say the open floor plan is still in demand.
  • – 72 percent of designers agree the formal dining room is a phasing out (almost half of their clients are asking to have it removed).
  • – White is still the most popular color in the kitchen, followed by accent colors gray, blue and black.
  • – The hottest appliances are the convection steam oven and induction cooktop.
  • – Microwaves continue to lose popularity among designers and their clients.
  • – Integrated appliances are in demand, with more panels and panel overlays being used.
  • – Wood is the No. 1 material of choice, followed by quartz and stainless steel.
  • – 82 percent of design pros says the kitchen island is a must-have, and most say a recycling center is important as well.
  • – Outdoor kitchens are becoming increasingly popular.
  • – More clients are incorporating the needs of children as their interest in cooking increases.
  • – Aging Americans are looking for “cleaner” designs to showcase their best pieces when downsizing (or right-sizing) from home to condo.
  • – Organic design is increasing in popularity, particularly salvaged woods and recycled materials.
  • – Vertical gardens are practical for those with limited outdoor space.

Quinn said that while there is growing interest in the modern aesthetic, the most popular and widely categorized style of kitchen design is transitional.

“Timeless is different than classic,” he said. “Most designers start out with function, but that doesn’t mean we completely abandon form. If that was the case, we’d end up with a commercial-looking kitchen.”

After speaking on design trends, Quinn then turned the discussion over to the three 1st place winners.


William Suk – 1st Place Traditional Kitchen for his “Chelsea Townhouse” design

Bill Suk of Suk Design Group LLP (New York City) said he faced the huge obstacle of creating a kitchen where there was none. Other obstacles were falling mortar, unleveled floors and a precarious staircase. They added a second story and built direct access to garden. His Chesea Townhouse design sold at a whopping $16.2 million, a price tag that Suk says is still the highest-priced sold property in the area.

Organic design topped Suk’s design forecast, including salvaged materials and textures and vertical gardening. For color trends, he said gray is the new white.

“I’m seeing more primary grays and black stainless steels, although I’m not necessarily a fan,” he said, adding that for countertops he’s seeing more wood and ceramics. “I am a big fan of stone. I’ve always felt that synthetics simply don’t have enough life in them.”


Mikal Otten – 1st Place Transition Kitchen for his “Mountain Bliss” design

Mikal Otten of Exquisite Kitchen Design (Denver) transformed a vacation home in Vail. Some of the major obstacles in his project included low ceilings, no natural light and relocation of the kitchen to the living area where the fireplace sat. Luckily, he said, the bones of the structure were good because his clients “wanted to bring the outside in.” His parting advice on trend was to not be afraid of using dark colors, especially when there are so many excellent LED options available.


Dovide Secter – 1st Place Contemporary Kitchen for his “Hide and Seek” design

Dov Secter of Secter Design Limited (Winnipeg, Maintoba, Candada) specializes in residential design with an aesthetic lean toward sleek and modern. It should be noted that this was Secter’s first time entering the design contest, and he lives in the prize-winning home with his wife and two young daughters.

“One of the greatest challenges was to build a modern family house,” he said. “Hosting guests, having enough storage and eating healthy are all important elements to me and my wife.”

Secter’s “hide and seek” approach meant he wanted to conceal certain elements of the kitchen. For example, he took common countertop appliances and stored them in floor-to-ceiling cabinets. A design trend that Secter mentioned is taking mainstream designs, like Ikea’s popular cookie-cutter designs, and making them more unique and individualized.

The 2015-2016 contest entry period will open in February 2016 and run through February 2017. Visit subzero-wolf.com/contest for further information.

By Carrie Farley

Dec 16 2015

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Revamped, Repurposed Condo Bath


The 12-in. by 12-in. floor tile color is Gray Penny
Porcelain Mosaic from Floor & Décor.

I went to my friend Chandler Brown’s house last weekend for a holiday open house, but I think he really wanted to show off his newly remodeled bathroom, which is awesome. I do not have a “before” picture, but believe me, there is a huge difference in the adjustments he chose to make to the space. My iPhone pictures do not do the space justice.

“The bathroom was very dated with original, apartment-style finishes,” said Brown, “and I wanted a new, updated look with more functionality.”


Another issue was the 30-in. vanity, which he had to lean down to use because most are a 36-in. standard height. He decided to have the entire space gutted from floor to ceiling and made the following improvements:

  • – The laminate floors were replaced with tile.
  • – The built-in vanity was replaced with a taller unit with legs for a more furniture-style look.
  • – The pre-fab garden tub is now a floor-to-ceiling, spa-like, glass-enclosed shower.

Close up of one tile

Brown purchased the shower and
wall tiles from Home Depot.

“My contractor was amazing and helped me choose materials that would be functional, long lasting and modern,” said Brown. “Working with him, I selected tiles that were aesthetically pleasing and were in keeping with the other design elements in my home.”

Brown had a budget to renovate one room in his condo – the kitchen or the bathroom – another decision the contractor helped him make.

“We ultimately went with bathroom because it was in need of better functionality, whereas the kitchen was more aesthetics,” he said. “Once we decided on the room, the contractor recommended we do the entire bathroom, including flooring, painting, new baseboards, new toilet…to have consistency among finishes while staying on budget.”

Shower Floor Tile


Dec 10 2015

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A Little 1950s Charm

0007_Brio Photography copy 2

Big gifts come in small boxes, and great designs often start with small rooms. For designer Allison Jaffe of Austin, Texas-based Allison Jaffe Interior Design, one tiny bathroom offered up the opportunity to create a little charm.

“Spatially, there was a standard 3-ft. by 3-ft. shower in a tight, little 1950’s bathroom,” said Jaffe.

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By taking out the linen closet next to the shower and taking some of the space from a closet behind the shower, Jaffe squeezed in a little more square footage into the space. Then there was just the dated aesthetic with the very 50’s-esque turquoise and yellow subway tile to tackle.

“We wanted to keep that 1950s feel, but modernize it with new features,” said Jaffe.

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The classic subway tile stayed on the bottom half of the wall, and small square tiles still grace the floor. Now though, a soft blue-green tile under a wainscoting detail lends a serene ambiance to the room and wraps  into the shower. The rest of the walls are painted a matching color.

“We used that blue tile to punch it up,” she added.

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A shaker-style, white vanity keeps the bath traditional and classic.

“You can’t go wrong with shaker,” said Jaffe. “But rather than standard legs, I did ones with a little more decorative profile. It’s something charming, and besides looking pretty, it’s really functional as well in terms of storage.”

0014_Brio Photography copy